Dreams Come True: Talented South African To Make West End Debut!!
Photo Cred: Jarryd Nurden | Supplied

In 2007, Jarryd Nurden sat in the “cheap seats” at a show in Montecasino and a dream was ignited to be on stage… little did he know that 16 years later, he would be making his debut on the West End.

 

West End, United Kingdom (12 March 2023) – He’s performed in Pantomimes, the Rocky Horror Picture Show and Chicago here in South Africa but Jarryd Nurden is set to make his global debut as he takes on a new role in a new show on the West End.

Nurden, originally from a small farming community in KwaZulu-Natal, fell in love with theatre at a young age after travelling to Johannesburg to watch the Lion King at Montecasino 16 years ago.

“My mom, sister and I travelled to Joburg to watch the premiere of Lion King. We could only afford the cheapest seats at the back of the Montecasino Teatro. It was at that moment I said to my mom, I want to be on that stage and do this! And the rest is history.”

But the road to getting on stage wasn’t an easy one.

Nurden suffered from severe bullying at school, which led to teenage depression. His mom found a newspaper article advertising an audition for a TV show. She believed this would help him, so she entered him into “High School Musical: Spotlight South Africa”, a reality TV competition created by MNET to find the next Troy and Gabrielle. The talented South African says that the show saved his life.

“I was so nervous. With no training at that point and only my mom’s faith in me, I auditioned for the show and it totally changed my life. For the first time, I was able to see a world in which I could exist—a place where people like me could have fun and live out our passion. I had found my people and my purpose in life. After placing in the top 6, I dreamed, ate, slept and breathed Musical Theatre.”

So far, in his career, he has performed in over ten musical theatre productions, five of which are international and world touring shows. From “Cats” to “Chicago” and the “Rocky Horror Picture Show”, Nurden has made an indelible mark in the South African theatre space but Nurden was ready to try his hand on a global stage.

Dreams Come True: Talented South African To Make West End Debut!!
Photo Cred: Jarryd Nurden | Supplied

When Lockdown hit South Africa, Nurden lost his second international touring job and decided it was time to give the UK another shot.

“Unfortunately, as South African Musical Theatre performers, we can’t make much money in our industry as glamorous as it looks – something I hope will change and be valued more. So even though I had had a thriving career, the reality of affording this move to the UK would be a stretch.” 

Nurden and his sister sold everything they had, asked their parents and friends for one last supportive push and packed their bags to start a new life in London.

“After landing in the UK with no plan, no money and a big dream, the hustle immediately began! Working five jobs, long hours, fitting in auditions, and training in between, life was suddenly drastically different. Did I mention we arrived mid-winter? It was FREEZING! My poor African bones! LOL.”

With perseverance and a lot of rejection, in just four months of being in London, Nurden was booked for his very first West End job in Andrew Lloyd Webbers New Musical ‘Bad Cinderella’ playing Arthur the Hunk.

“I was over the moon at the time. Unfortunately, this show was then cancelled a few months later and soon became my third cancelled show in a row during the pandemic and another deep disappointment. With the words “get up, brush yourself off and try again” ringing in my head, I was back at it, setting up my life, finding a secure place to live and truly experiencing life as a Londoner.”

“Life has certainly taught me to be kinder to myself, live in the moment and be truly grateful for each day we are alive. Yes, we may be working toward something greater but learning to be happy in the spaces “in-between” has been where the magic has shown up for me.”

His words to his agent were, “I’ll keep making shakes and hustling till I get my West End Show”, but being a South African in the industry while competing internationally has had its challenges.

“It’s extremely difficult. I had a wonderful career back home. I knew everyone; most people knew me and trusted what I could be and bring to the table. My network was set up and l felt secure mostly. It’s been a complete restart here. My ego had to be dropped in the ocean as I flew here, elbow grease on and a hardworking mindset to build up my new life and career again from scratch. Terrifying but exhilarating. There are thousands of extremely talented professionals here who already have thriving careers.”

A year later, after all the hard work and perseverance, his dream of being on the West End is finally coming true. With a wide smirk and a glisten in his eye, Nurden tells me the news that on the 2nd of June 2023, he will be making his official West End debut in the revival of Queen’s “We Will Rock You” on what he calls, “the biggest stage in town at the London Coliseum”.

Dreams Come True: Talented South African To Make West End Debut!!
Photo Cred: Jarryd Nurden | Supplied

“It is absolutely a dream come true!!! Thousands of other talented performers were submitted for this and I was chosen! I feel so honoured to be part of this new and thriving company!”

Nurden says that this moment has completely changed his life and he is excited about the future.

“It’s been so great to be working among the best of the best. To have this experience is going to grow me as an artist on a global platform but also help me break further into an already established and thriving industry in the UK that has some of the world’s toughest competition.”

When asked what he most looks forward to, the talented South African performer says that working with Ben Elton is an absolute highlight.

“To be working with Ben Elton himself and Queen, with some of the most talented company members in the UK! I’m also looking forward to finally performing in the West End!”

Nurden hopes that by sharing his story, he will inspire South Africans to keep working towards making their own dreams come true, both locally and abroad. Even though he is taking on this role in the West End, he is still a proud South African and wants the best for everyone “back home”.

“We must remember that we live in the most vibrant, the most special and multicultural country in the world! We have a heartbeat in our bodies and land like no other and a passion that can take us to the unimaginable.”

“Boundaries, action and dreaming are all part of our daily steps to making South Africa great again. Let’s eradicate judgement and know that thoughts become things; let’s not allow the adversities to change the magic of living a beautiful, thriving life in SA. The quickest way to change our realities is by quickly getting into a daily practice of gratitude, especially for the small things and I’m deeply grateful to be a South African showing the world that we, too, can take up space equally!”

“I haven’t left forever but I have a huge long-term plan which includes South Africa.”

“We Will Rock You” will debut in London on the 2nd of June 2023, and while Nurden rehearses in the UK for his debut, local audiences can catch a version of the show at Montecasino until the 16th of April 2023. Click here for more details.

Dreams Come True: Talented South African To Make West End Debut!!
Photo Cred: Jarryd Nurden | Supplied

Sources: Interview with Jarryd Nurden 
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Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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